Bone Broth and its Dietary Significance in Chinese Medicine

If I were to recommend one simple healing food that contributes to our overall health, it would be Traditional Bone Broth. This is one of the most healing, nutrient dense substances a person can consume. Bone broth is a traditional healing food used by nearly every culture. 

How Chinese medicine views bone broth

In the dietary branch of Chinese medicine, cooking bones is a method to extract the essence of the animal in a way that can most easily be digested and assimilated.  Bone broth nourishes and warms the vital physiological functions that are the foundation for human health in Chinese medicine: Jing (essence/DNA), Wei qi (your protection from external pathogens), Qi (propels all body functions), and Xue (makes, carries, and stores nutrients). When we consume bone broth, we are literally and figuratively absorbing the deepest digestible elements of the animal to nourish our body's bones, joints, blood building marrow, kidneys, reproductive system, and the brain.

Bone broth is perhaps the most elegant food elixir you can consume. It is a bit like a dietary dose of Ren Shen (ginseng). Its stimulating, grounding and fortifying at the same time.

Each type of bone broth holds its own medicine

A beef marrow broth strengthens our overall constitutional health and is very anchoring.  Chicken broth is the most versatile meat broth because of its mild taste. You can use it as a stock for cooking or drink it as a tea. Chicken broth is  fantastic for supporting the immune system and providing warm gentle nourishment for the digestive fires. As I mentioned in the last blog post, our digestive system works best when the 'digestive cooking pot' it is allowed to slowly simmer and steam. 

Turkey is similar to chicken but not as tonifying. Duck broth can moisten dryness and with a few Chinese herbs help relieve cough.  Lamb bone broth is a great choice to warm the body making it a broth for winter and not summer.  However, lamb is not to be consume if you are getting a cold and have chills. Chicken broth is a better choice.  Fish bone broth, like chicken broth, is a versatile choice, but can be an acquired taste. Fish bone broth supports the reproductive and skeletal level, particularly broth made with fish heads. Vegetarian broth made with kombu or kelp and dried mushrooms such as shitake resonates at the constitutional level, but is a very distant cousin to the nutrient dense nourishment of meat based bone broth. 

Adding Chinese herbs to broth

Chinese herbs such as Huang Qi (Astragalus),  Dang Shen (Codonopsis), Da Zao (Jujube), Gou Qi Zi (Lycii berri), Chen Pi (Tangerine Peel), Sheng Jiang (Ginger), and Cong Bai (Scallion Stalk) may be added to increase the medicinal properties of the broth. These herbs not only enhance the nutritional status, but add a wonderful complexity to the flavor. Huang Qi, Dang Shen, and Da Zao  tonify the qi, support digestion, build energy, and strengthen immune function. Gou Qi Zi  adds additional blood tonification.  Chen Pi is excellent for preventing stagnation in the digestive track, which is useful to mitigate broth's richness. Sheng Jiang warms the middle and for winter broths soothes Lung qi. Cong Bai is not cooked into the broth, but added when you drink it. 1 T of finely diced scallions sprinkled on top acts as a venting system. In Chinese medicine herbs such as Sheng Jiang and Cong Bai "release the exterior" and open the pours of the body. This venting system pushes pathogenic qi (sickness) out of the body before it has a chance to sink deeper and lead to more serious illnesses. 

If you would like an herbal formula to cook into your bone broth, I can tailor it to your needs: immune support, digestive health, postpartum, menopause, fatigue. The cost is low and the long term benefits are high. 


Suggested reading

Why Broth is Beautiful: Essential Roles for Proline, Glycine, and Gelatin - Long form article, but worth taking the time to read it. 


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